Choose wisely: What you should consider when picking a telemedicine partner

Sep 10, 2015 / Planning for telemedicine /

 

New investments always carry an element of risk. Whether you're bringing on a new hire or purchasing new equipment, it's important to both make informed decisions and to be prepared for any eventuality - new staff members may not be a good fit, or you may find that new software you purchased just isn't helping your workflow the way you hoped it would. 

But when that investment is as large and significant as a new telemedicine system, that uncertainty can turn into fear and trepidation, and may even prevent you from moving forward with the decision at all. It's true that the telemedicine industry is expanding rapidly. While this growth is undoubtedly a good thing for vendors and healthcare providers alike, it also has the side effect of inundating practices with more choices than may be helpful when it comes time to choose a telemedicine partner. 

You don't have to be tentative when sifting through the mountain of potential telemedicine solution providers. One of the most important things to seek out is a provider of telemedicine products that has experience, a good reputation and a clean track record.

Research plays a key role in any decision you make, so why should choosing your telemedicine provider be any different?Research plays a key role in any decision you make, so why should choosing your telemedicine provider be any different?

Do your research

You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it or even see a movie without reading a review or two, so why would you enter the expanding telemedicine marketplace without first conducting similar research? Simply doing your homework may sound old-fashioned, but it's also one of the best ways to ensure you're equipped with the best knowledge before you sign on any dotted lines.

With the growing popularity and usefulness of telemedicine, there's no shortage of news stories outlining the successes and failures of startups and clinical partners. It goes without saying that while you're on the hunt, you should be looking for companies that aren't bogged down by Google pages full of bad press, nor do you want to invest your time and money into a company that hasn't yet had the chance to prove itself, especially with such an important consideration as your telemedicine strategy. 

"The convenience of app-based telehealth comes at a cost - quality of care."

Don't fall for the convenience trap

It's hard to pinpoint a startup that has shaken up the consumer landscape in recent years more than Uber. The app-based ride-sharing service has revolutionized more than just the way people take cabs. The crowd-sourced and DIY format championed by the Bay Area-based startup has been copied in industries ranging from finding accommodations for a trip to filing your tax return and just about everything in between.

And what's not to love? There's definitely an appeal to turnkey solutions that do most - or all - of the heavy lifting for you. But while convenience and efficiency are touted as virtues in this day and age, this approach can have serious implications when it comes to healthcare. Many telehealth and telemedicine providers claim to connect physicians with patients in a variety of ways regardless of physical location, which is admittedly an admirable and much-needed goal. But there are critics within the healthcare world that worry that the convenience of app-based telehealth comes at a cost - namely, quality of care.

As KevinMD reported, many telemedicine startups offer app-based communication between patients and physicians, but this only covers a small sliver of potential telemedicine applications. It's true that a camera-equipped smartphone and an Internet connection can go a long way, but high-quality medical care requires a few extra tools that these startups may not have access to - or even tell you about.

For example, there's a big difference between a doctor conferencing with a patient over video only, and a practitioner who is able to actually examine a patient using additional instruments like remote stethoscopes, digital otoscopes and other USB-connected medical devices. This is the major difference between cool telemedicine apps and established clinical telemedicine vendors.

At the end of the day, telemedicine isn't just about offering more convenient medical care. Rather, the focus is on expanding the effective range of doctors and nurses while still enabling them to bring the same - or better - quality to their remote patients that they would be able to provide to those who came in for an in-person visit. While convenience is certainly an important factor in the telemedicine landscape, it's a secondary benefit to the ability to offer reliable, accessible care to those who otherwise wouldn't have it.

For more information and to view the variety of telemedicine tools and services available to your practice, visit www.amdtelemedicine.com.

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